Santa Clara mayor proposes 2020 bond measure in State of City address
Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor delivers her State of the City on Thursday. Photo by Janice Bitters.

Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor wants to put a bond measure on the November 2020 ballot that would generate funds to improve public facilities and infrastructure, she announced Thursday during a State of the City address.

“While our community is thriving, we need to improve our parks, our libraries and our infrastructure to keep up with the future demand of what’s happening here and the aging infrastructure we have in Santa Clara,” Gillmor said to a crowd at Central Park Library.

In the next month, city officials intend to create a committee to formulate the bond proposal and then begin outreach to residents.

“My colleagues and I will sit in your living room — I already signed them up this morning — and they’re going to sit in your living room with you and your neighbors and we’ll ask you what our neighborhood needs and what our city wants,” she said. “We want your ideas and your feedback and then, and only then, will we know how to invest in Santa Clara’s future.”

Already Gillmor, who has been mayor of the South Bay city since 2016, has a few ideas about what types of projects might be at the front of the line for investment.

Among the potential projects she listed Thursday: improvements to the city’s Community Recreation Center and the International Swim Center as well as upgrades to streets, the storm drain system and “aging” public safety infrastructure.

If approved, the ballot measure “will also be a gift to future generations,” she said.

And though Gillmor is advocating for new funding to improve such infrastructure, she told residents Thursday during a rosy State of the City speech that overall, the future of Santa Clara is looking “great.”

Santa Clara is at a pivotal moment as the city digs in on revising its zoning code for the first time in 50 years and looks ahead to a future that includes the 9.2 million-square-foot Related Santa Clara project, formerly known as CityPlace. The development is the largest proposed project in Silicon Valley and is set to begin construction this month.

The mixed-use development by New York-based Related Cos. will rise on what was once a landfill but is now a city-owned golf course, and will include new apartments, office space, retail and park land. When complete, Related Santa Clara is expected to bring in about $17 million in annual revenue for the city.

That funding will be a boon, Gillmor said, but noted the project will also “build something that we lack in this community.”

“It’s 1 million square feet of shopping, dining and entertainment,” she said. “Our city will be home to top restaurants and a global food market.”

Gillmor touted the accomplishments of her staff in recent years, including increasing oversight on the city’s Convention Center, which was previously operated by the city’s chamber of commerce, and Levi’s Stadium, which is managed by the San Francisco 49ers, an organization with who Gillmor has long butted heads.

Looking ahead, Santa Clara City Manager Deanna Santana said the city will focus on sustainability, creating a new accessory dwelling unit incentive program with teachers and public service employees in mind and getting an accurate count for the 2020 Census.

“Federal dollars are distributed largely by formula based on … the count for population,” Santana said of the city’s efforts around the census. “These numbers need to be as high as possible so that we can secure the most amount of funds over the next decade until the next count occurs.”

The city will also focus on upgrading its California Public Records Act administration, Santana said. That’s a hot topic this week after a Civil Grand Jury released a critical report Tuesday alleging that Santa Clara is falling short of complying with the state law around disclosure of public records.

Though city officials insist the city is in compliance with the law, in a statement to San José Spotlight, a city spokesperson also acknowledged the need for better recordkeeping, calling it “one of the city’s gap areas.”

Even so, Gillmor says she is more optimistic about the city’s future than she has been in the past. When she was appointed to be mayor in 2016, “I was actually a little bit scared and I really didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I didn’t know what we would find once we started turning over all the rocks in City Hall.”

Today, however, she is “very optimistic and excited about Santa Clara’s future,” she added. “I want to say the state of our city is great.”

The city will host two more State of the City events this week. One will be held Friday at 1 p.m. in the Northside Branch Library at 695 Moreland Way. The second event will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Mission Branch Library at 1098 Lexington St.

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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